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1/19/16 Titled: “God’s Torah”
Last week we talked about many things. We talked about binding and loosing, rabbi’s and yokes, disciples, King Herod, the invitation to be a part of God’s kingdom.
We talked about why the kingdom at be and the Roman Empire are already set up to be against Jesus. Now fortunately for Jesus he is a Jew. And there are a lot of Jewish people so presumably he should have a lot of allies. But that’s not going to happen. The Jewish people are going to turn on the Jewish Rabbi. The Jewish people are going to turn on their long awaited Messiah.
Now to explain why this will happen we’re going to bounce back a few hundred years so we can set the stage. We’re going to look at the world of the Jews that precedes the arrival of Christ and the groups that will arise from it. By looking at the world through their eyes I believe we will find a rich message that Jesus has for each of us. SO..
In the year 586 B.C. the Kingdom of Judea, and the Israelites in Canaan, underwent a devastating experience. The Temple was laid in ruins. The rituals of offering and purity brought to an end. With the temple destroyed and the Jewish people banished to Babylon how would the religion survive?
Strangers in a land of new influences that could change the faith. How do the Jews remain a unique and set apart people? One individual will rise up with a solution; the prophet Ezekiel.
The solution was Torah-The Jewish Instruction. For the exiles in Babylon it stood as a symbol of doctrine, the written and oral torah, which had come down from past ages. In the Gentile (the non-Jewish) environment the Torah would be the rock the Jewish people could stand on until the day the Jewish people could move back into the promised land.
And so the Jews again distinguished themselves as a separate people. A Jew was someone whose life was controlled by the Torah.
During the 400 years between the Old and the New Testament the world around Jerusalem completely flipped on its head. After exile the Jewish people moved back to the promised land and began to rebuild the Jewish Temple. After this, empire after empire came into conflict with the Jewish people in Palestine. The Persians, Alexander the Great and The Macedonians, the Egyptians, the Syrians, and the eventual overtaking by the Romans. The Jewish world changed dramatically. And so did Judaism.
Now there were a few ways to respond to this constant back and forth. And tonight we will talk about two of those ways.
The Greek culture was in Palestine. A party arose amongst the Jews known as the Hellenists they were eager to bring in the Grecian culture so that they could liberalize- loosen restrictions- of some of the Jewish laws even at the cost of loyalty to the Torah. They turned from the supernatural aspects of Judaism and the Torah and went deep into the realm of politics. These “Greek Lovers” were called the Sadducees and they were some of wealthiest people in Jerusalem. They were priests in the Temple who administered the rituals and the sacrifices. Now they were deeply invested in what might as well be called “biblical literacy.” If it did not appear in the five books of Moses then there was no point in following it. The Written Torah was the only authority for the Sadducees. Now many of these members were also part of the Sanhedrin the Jewish courts. So this group of people was deeply involved in local affairs and would work alongside the Roman governor. We talked about the Roman Peace last week. They worked alongside Rome so that they could keep their religious practices alive. As long as Rome was happy, the Jews could keep offering sacrifices to God in their Temple. Because it has already been taken away many times. (Hold on to that nugget). For the Sadducees, the Temple was everything. (So don’t mess with it.)
So if one group involved conforming to the Grecian culture then the other group, they’re going to reject it entirely. A group of leaders known as The Pharisees (which means to separate) they insisted on preserving all Jewish traditions. This spoke to the hearts of the Jewish people and they would be the more popular sect. Now these teachers of the law have basically built up the precise ways in which to be a proper Jew. They were intent on the Jewish people keeping the entire will of God and not conforming to the gentile ways. If you behaved outside of this box they would quickly turn on you and demand your repentance. Now to do this you needed a deep understanding of the Torah and the Laws of Moses. They weren’t always very clear. For example a passage like Exodus 21 which includes the famous teaching. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth…
The Sadducees would treat this as literally as possible. If it says eye for eye well then if someone blinds you, you have the right to take out their eye! The Pharisees will challenge the Sadducees over issues like this because they will point out that the Torah ALSO forbids physical retribution so there must be a different understanding of this than bodily harm. These situations were part of what the Pharisees called the Oral Torah something they believed began with Moses’ explanation of the Torah. They believe Moses wrote the Torah but he also explained it and clarified it. They justify this by pointing out that God would not demand obedience to commandments that could not be understood.
So they asserted that blindly following the plain text of written commandments could lead to unethical acts. Like taking out someone’s eyeball. Thus the Oral Torah would expound on the written law. The Pharisees collected these scholarly works as part of a long process they called the Talmud. In these collections would be contained years of scholarly work. So scholars would decipher the meaning of these things and it would orally be passed down from generation to generation.
Quick pause and refresh: The Sadducees were literalist of the five books of Moses and the laws contained within. They worked the Temple and adapted with culture. The Pharisees also practiced elaborations of the five books of Moses.
Josephus the great Jewish historian puts it this way: The Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers which are not written in the Law of Moses; and it is for that reason that the Sadducees reject them, and say that we are only to observe the written word, but are not to observe what was derived from the tradition of our forefathers.
So these Pharisees began to collect the oral traditions of the Torah and make those explanations the law of the land and the Sadducees didn’t like that.
Okay let’s look at an example that will be in the scripture we read tonight, Jews are told in the Ten Commandments to keep the Sabbath Day holy, (The Sabbath is a day each week set aside for rest and worship. It’s basically a Sunday.) but nowhere in the Torah does it indicate how this is done. So the Pharisees made rules about how to keep the Sabbath.
So when laws were made stating that a Jew couldn’t travel long distances on the Sabbath, it then had to be decided what a “long distance” was.
Or when a Jewish worker believed they couldn’t labor on the Sabbath they then had to define what constituted as work. They had to decide the things they were forbidden from doing. And this process grew and grew and built on itself and built on itself and became more and more and more forbidding. So the Law became more than just Moses. It involved who you could eat with, what you had to do if you were sick, they took that temple purity and casted it in the most extreme ways on all the people. The Pharisees were in every kind of way a people police. They decided who was in, and who was out, and who was clean and who was unclean. The Pharisees decided who was righteous…and who was a sinner. And these people are not cool with Jesus.
In our text tonight, Jesus is walking around driving out demons. Healing paralyzed men and forgiving peoples sins. Now the Jews believed that the temple is where sins were forgiven. A sacrifice had to be offered for the forgiveness of sins and to make yourself “clean.” Foreshadow.
So when Jesus forgives a man’s sins. Questions arise. Teachers of the Law (the Torah) call Jesus a blasphemer. They tell Jesus only God can do this. Foreshadow.
So this story is our first encounter with Jewish opposition of Jesus. It leads us to what we will study tonight.
In verse 13 Jesus calls another disciple.
13 Jesus went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but the sinners.”
Jesus was doing the opposite of the Pharisees.
For obvious reasons tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people. Matthew’s gospel paints the picture pretty well when he talks about dealing with sin in the church and Christians being unrepentant after much offered help. He says: If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Which to the Jews meant don’t even touch them because they are unclean.
People did not like the tax collectors. They were the perfect Jewish enemy because under the Roman Peace we learned that if the Jewish people did not pay tax…well then there wouldn’t be a Jewish people. And the tax collectors they knew this. So they would overtax and steal far more than required. Historians estimate that the total estimate of the Jewish and Roman taxes was about 50%. Fifty.
The Pharisees considered the tax collectors unclean. Association with a tax collector put your purity and cleanliness at risk.
So the obvious question we are going to come back to: As Christians, who are our tax collectors?
In fact let’s take a pause. Amongst yourselves go ahead and ask each other that question.
Alright I said the text would talk about the Sabbath day well here we go.
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
23 One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of[d] Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus denies the very teachings of the Pharisees. Earlier we looked at their teachings of the Sabbath day. What Jesus is telling them is they have become so consumed with their rules that they’ve missed the purpose all together. He denies their oral Torah. He denies their Law. The very Law that now defines a Jew. The one thing that sets them apart from everyone else. Because along the way they missed something.
Not only does Jesus deny their law. We’re going to quickly look at this. He calls himself the Lord of the Sabbath. And he tells the Pharisees he is the Son of Man. Now very quickly we’re going to chase that rabbit.
Last week we talked about how the Son of God was ultimately a known term it had been used before. But this term: The Son of Man. This name (the one Jesus will use the most) that’s the name that had real implications.
In Daniel the prophecy reads: ”
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
That Prophecy means that one is coming on the clouds of heaven who will receive glory, authority, and sovereign power. And people of every nation are going to worship him with a worship due only to God. The Son of Man is going to be more than human. The Son of Man is going to be divine.
Jesus is revealing his divinity. Jesus is revealing the Savior. So very quickly whenever people claim that Jesus never said “I am God.” YES HE DID.
SO GOD is telling these religious people.
Quit. Doing. My. job. I am the Lord of the Sabbath. I am the Lord of the Law. NOT. YOU. Jesus says NO to the authority of the Pharisees.
So Jesus goes from this grand claim into the house of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. He goes into their Synagogue.
A Man with a Withered Hand
3 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched Jesus,[a] to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might kill him.
So Jesus rejects the Pharisaic laws and the Rabbinic Laws. The laws that most Jews have now come to uphold. And so the Jewish people are going to reject Jesus. It says the Pharisees counsel with the Herodians. The Pharisees join the wrong kingdom. They are so consumed by their law that they can’t let it go to see Jesus’ truth. They join the wrong kingdom. And they miss the one they’ve been waiting for.
In contrast to the two commands of Christ, (Love God, and love people.) the Pharisees had developed a system of over 600 laws. By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. Here’s ten reasons this law doesn’t work.
(1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations.
(2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men.
(3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern. (Expound on this [This is dangerous])
(4) It creates a judgmental spirit.
(5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law.
(6) It produces inconsistencies.
(7) It created a false standard of righteousness.
(8) It became a burden to the Jews.
(9) It was strictly external.
(10) It was rejected by Christ.
Dear Americans….we are doing the same thing.
Rabbis and Pharisees, they followed their own authority and not scripture. The Jewish people followed Jewish parties that decided what God thought was best for the people. Some of these parties were conservative (we must keep Judaism at all cost and not allow any outside influence!) and some of them were liberal (let’s just get with the times man).
So we are going to end by talking about the great Empire that is America. We’re going to talk about the conservative and the liberal. And the ways that we have decided what it means to be a Christian. And yes, we are going to talk about American politics. Because we can choose one party that is very afraid that God is going to be pushed out of America and so we make all these rules about how we can remain a Christian nation or we can join one party and just move with the times. Under both we believe lies.
Now this is not going to be a Republican or be a Democrat sermon. This is not a Democrat bad, Republican good sermon.
So let’s start here.
Who are our Tax- Collectors? Who are the people we fear that would likely be the first that Jesus goes to meet? Shout out some of things you said earlier.
Now before I begin this. The space that I am standing in is not a place for me to share my opinion. It’s not a place for me to share what I think we should do. So if at any point moving forward you hear an opinion from me call me out. Pull me aside and we’ll talk about it. I am not the authority, but I follow the one who is. I will also say that if you disagree with this, please don’t let it be the end of the conversation.
So ya’ll said:
Muslims and Homosexuals.
So take same sex marriage. There are two ways to respond to this the one way would be who are we to say what is right or wrong. The ship has sailed let’s just get with the times. The other would be to say that this is against God. And to fight and fight to make sure that outside influence does not change our faith. Marriage is ours we cannot allow such a thing to be stolen by outside influence so our enemy must be those trying to interfere. And so signs are made to pray the gay away. And words are exchanged. Cakes aren’t made. We wait to see what the world is going to take away next.
There’s Syrian refugees and the fear that they might be Muslim Terrorists. A very Politically charged situation. And political views like well we should only help the Christian refugees. To put it in context we should only help those who are “clean.” Don’t help those people because of their faith. They might be dangerous. They are our enemies. Fear them.
What happens is we get swayed by Political parties about how we should see a situation. We let political parties decide what is Godly. We think first as Republicans or Democrats rather than God’s people.
The world makes a lot of decisions and changes. The world is going to do whatever it wants. And we are told not to conform. To this: Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.-Romans 12
Now I know these are sensitive things. So hear me out, I’m talking about Christians. We don’t get to redefine marriage. Part of the rabbi’s yoke is helping the least of these. As Christians you don’t get to say that we shouldn’t help. As Christians the only Politics that should be on our hearts is HOW we help. If you think there are better ways than bringing a refugee to our country then help in that way.
As Christians you don’t get to say we have no responsibility to protect and preserve the earth. In Genesis 1:Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created things that can create more and gave us charge over the ongoing creation of the world. Creation is not finished and we get to be a part of that. It’s not a political stance. It is a spiritual blessing. It’s God’s truth.
You don’t get to say that an abortion is a woman’s right to her body. Nobody has a right to their body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. We were given dominion to advance creation, not prohibit it. It is nobodies right to end a life. In the same breath you can be so loud about sparing that life, that you forget the Mother involved who somehow has been led to make that very hard decision. What so often happens is a single mom walks into a church and what happens? She get’s judged. You can’t have it both ways. The mother who chose life get’s judged. I mean no wonder people feel alone I mean no wonder people feel so alone and are led to make a decision like that. And in the SAME way you can be so loud against abortions that you don’t follow it up for the rest of that child’s life.
This quote came from a nun and I think it really paints the picture:
“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”
It’s not just political. And like the Pharisees you can get so worked up in the political that you miss the point all together.
If you want to speak loudly about guns fine. But you should never be excited to use it on another person. Or in the words of one famous Christian to “end those Muslims.” In the same way that love is not just a feeling it’s something you do, well hatred is the same way. It’s not just something you feel it’s something you say.
These are all beliefs that are driven by Political Parties. And you can be so adamant about fighting for your views. Demanding certain obedience of laws. Stirring up fear and division. That you miss a very important thing.
Do you know why Jesus grew angry with the Pharisees at the Synagogue.
It’s because they didn’t care about the man being healed they cared about the rules being followed.
The Sadducees miss that the commands matters. The Pharisee misses that the person matters.
Do not be swayed by political parties. Be swayed by asking what advances the kingdom of God. God’s Torah is this: Love God, and Love People. Every decision that we make, that we vote for, that we argue on Facebook about should begin with that question. Does this view love God, and Love people.
The Pharisees were adamant that all people obey God’s will. That’s not inherently wrong.
What does it say in Romans? Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.-Romans 12
Be transformed with the renewing of your mind. Before you promote what you believe is best for the world, ask your mind “Does this Love God, and does it love people?”
You can be so adamant about upholding biblical marriage that you miss the humanity of this individual. Debate the worthiness of the idea without infringing upon the worth of the person.
In promoting God’s will, never forget the person needs to be healed.
You can be so against the faith of Islam that you miss that they are suffering people. You can be so about arguing a political view that you miss a life is at stake. You can be so obsessed with fighting for God that you are actually fighting against him.
The law was made for you, to help you, not you for the Law.
Now Before we end I want to remind you of the great commission of Jesus.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
I want to remind you that Jesus was confrontational to the religious. Last week Jesus and John The Baptist were not afraid to tell the world that the world was wrong. “Go and sin no more” Jesus said to the adulterous woman. The commands do matter. We are called to be set apart. We are all called to live into the teachings of Christ above all influences.
I’ll end with my personal story. In College I lived in a house designed for Christians. We got to pay $150 a month to live in this house as long as we reflected the values of Jesus and used it for ministry. It was about accountability. When we mess up we work together. This is the church. Now when new people moved into this house. (When outside influence) came in, the laws of the land began to shift. It started with my roommates drinking underage. It led to marijuana being smoked in the house. My roommates were having sex. And I (not perfect myself), made a stand for Godliness. To my Christian brothers I said we should not be doing these things. We’re not helping each other grow towards Jesus as long as we allow these things to happen. It was a very hard season of life to watch not only the house but people who began as my friends turn away from God. And I would seek them out one on one and as Jesus taught teach them to observe his commands. There is a biblical process for dealing with sin with believers. Because I cared for them. This is where things can feel like legalism but no it is different. I was kicked out of this house. Now I won’t claim perfection throughout the whole situation but my hope and intention was true. That we all glorify God. Now yes this is my version of the story so If you don’t trust it and think I’m sugar coating it fine just listen to this point. The day I was kicked out I made one last attempt to explain the situation. I was met with this. “Devon, it’s not about rules. The only thing that matters is that we Love God, and that we Love people.” That’s the only thing.
To which I replied with you are absolutely right. But my question to you is “How do we love God?”
His said “I’ve been trying to figure that out my whole life.”
To which I replied Jesus tells us how we can love Him.
He says if you love me, obey my commands.
It’s not about legalism. It’s not about rules. It’s love.
It’s a response to what Christ has done for us.
It is the true Torah.
In promoting God’s will never forget the person who needs to be healed.
Let go of the Empire and join the kingdom.
May we love God. And may we love people.